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Sarooj Factory, Nakhal, Oman

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Mud bricks fired as part of the sarooj manufacturing process, Nakhal, Oman

For centuries, sarooj was an essential building material in the oasis communities of the UAE and Oman. In the oases that the Al Ain chapter visits, we often find copper smelting rings that have been re-used for the production of sarooj. At Nuway, there is a collection of sarooj manufacturing pits.

However, the exact process of making sarooj was unclear, though it is described in various publications and, briefly, on a website produced by the Oman government.

The Oman website mentioned a sarooj manufacturing site in Nakhal, Oman. The photographs below were taken in the summer of 2007 during a visit to the site.

The current manager has been in charge of sarooj manufacturing for more than 50 years. He patiently demonstrated the various stages and explained that sarooj made in Nakhal is shipped around the Arabian Gulf where it is used in restoration projects. Some of the sarooj on the site was more than 25 years old and still had the characteristics of portland cement.

Each oasis needed a quantity of sarooj to build falaj systems. An archaeologist from Muscat explained that oasis communities often used old copper smelting 'rings' as sarooj firing sites, explaining -- as is the case at Khutwah, for example -- why the stones are all discolored. Sarooj is not used for wall plaster but, in addition to aflaj, it may have been used for pottery.

Sarooj

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Sarooj Factory Gallery

Photographs by Brien Holmes

  • A 'pan' where the raw material soaks for 3 days
  • The raw material has the consistency of talc
  • After curing three days, mud is shaped into discs
  • Each disc is the size of a large dinner plate
  • A hand to illustrate relative size of each disc
  • One of the workers near the field of discs
  • Recently fired pile of discs beyond drying discs
  • The fired discs, some ash-covered, some dark brown
  • Many of the discs are still neatly stacked
  • A view down onto the stack of fired discs
  • Three of the firing sites
  • The discs, once cool, are bulldozed into a pile
  • Drying discs waiting to be stacked on the madbah
  • Madbah: 3 layers of date palms, 8m x 8m
  • A ton of wadi stones are placed between trunks
  • Some of the 'modern' equipment used
  • Some of the fired bricks waiting to be crushed
  • Each layer of madbah has 20 date palm trunks
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Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan